With key deals looming, history with vets might have been Panthers GM's undoing

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Dave Gettleman had a history of being stubborn when it came to extending the contracts of older veterans during his four seasons as the general manager of the Carolina Panthers.

He released all-time leading receiver Steve Smith following the 2013 season. He released all-time leading rusher DeAngelo Williams after the 2014 season.

Both were in their 30s. Both were bitter and said harsh things about the man that let them go and the manner in which it was handled.

Gettleman also parted with Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman following the 2015 Super Bowl season. That decision in large part led to a 6-10 record in 2016 and drew Gettleman more criticism.

So the timing of team owner Jerry Richardson letting Gettleman go on Monday is interesting — eight days before players report to training camp, with outside linebacker Thomas Davis and tight end Greg Olsen seeking extensions.

Davis is 34, but has made the Pro Bowl the past two seasons. Olsen is 32 and has made the Pro Bowl the past three seasons.

Extending their deals should be a no-brainer. It should be done before camp.

That there had been little movement, particularly on Olsen, who has two seasons left on his last extension, makes one wonder if there is a connection with Gettleman’s untimely dismissal.

Richardson didn’t interfere with Gettleman’s past decisions.

Perhaps he felt it was time.

Perhaps they were at an impasse over Gettleman’s history of being stubborn.

That one of the players wanting an extension is Davis makes this all the more interesting. There is no player who defines what Richardson wants the organization to represent more than Davis.

The only other player in team history is linebacker Sam Mills, who died of cancer in 2005.

Mills is the only player with a statue outside the stadium.

Davis likely is the next.

But Davis wants to play a few more years, and if Gettleman offered resistance it’s only natural that Richardson step in.

The last thing the Panthers need as they try to recapture the magic they had during a 15-1 2015 season was two of their biggest and most popular stars disgruntled.

It’ll be up to the next general manager to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Credit Gettleman for getting the Panthers’ salary cap healthy. They went from about $16 million over the salary cap when he replaced Marty Hurney to more than $25 million under the cap this past season.

Credit him for helping the Panthers reach the Super Bowl and going to the playoffs in three of his four years.

But Gettleman can’t escape the criticism received for what happened with Smith, Williams and Norman.

Smith, who had two productive seasons at Baltimore following his release, was openly critical about the way he was let go.

“He doesn’t even have the cojones to tell us to our face,” Smith said in 2014. “We have to hear it from someone else. Then he calls and says it wasn’t personal. If the first thing that comes out is ‘well it wasn’t personal,’ then guess what? It was personal.”

Williams, who spent the past two seasons in Pittsburgh, recently said the Panthers were off his list of potential teams to play for this season because of the way he was treated.

“I had no problems with getting fired, but there are things that went on there that I didn’t like — and I still don’t like to this day,” Williams recently told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “… There’s no point in me going back there. You’re an ex for a reason, right? You don’t go back to exes, and that’s just where I’m at there.”

When Gettleman was fired, Williams immediately, on Twitter, put the Panthers back on his list because of the “firing of that snake Dave gettleman!”

Norman, who wanted to remain at Carolina, responded with this on Twitter after news of Gettleman’s release.

So if you’re looking for answers as to why Gettleman no longer is with the team, perhaps this is the place to start.

Sometimes, as a player who asked not to be identified told me, “things come back around in full circle.”



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